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  • Writer's pictureNancy Erickson Dutmer

Pandemic Record Mania!

Pandemic quarantining presents itself as the perfect time to shop for long lost phonograph needles. Do you know searching for a phonograph needle on the internet is like looking for a needle in a haystack? I had to write that, because it’s factual. However, my brother Stewart would have said my comment was, “2/3rds of a pun………P.U.” Stewart has left the earth plane but his comical essence lives on. He was four years older than me, and of course, four years wiser. When I was in grade school, he repeatedly unbuttoned the top button of my Peter Pan collar blouses, because it wasn’t cool to be buttoned up to the neck. He also tore the loop off the backside of my Oxford button up shirts yelling “fruit loop” because that was ‘in’. Had to be a 1960’s thing. Stewart was also the brother who would interrupt my musical bubble, (where I would be entertaining an invisible audience singing and performing as my favorite musical characters), by ripping off my records from our only hi-fi to introduce me to rock groups who were borrowing from my favorite musicals. An example was Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song whose opening cadence replicated the melody in Bali Hai, from the musical South Pacific. I was unimpressed. I’m the youngest of five sibs growing up in the 60’-70’s where music and records ruled the household. As the youngest, I was exposed at a very early age with my sister Zan’s girl groups, like the Supremes. She was fifteen years older than me, so when she went to college, I would explore her room to find chewing gum and “stacks of wax from the backs of the racks!” Occasionally, my parents let me fall asleep in her bed listening to her records, and very often had to cut the gum out of my hair I fell asleep with in my mouth. Next came brother Peter, playing Dave Brubeck, Pete Fountain and the Beatles. When he went into the army, settling with the US Army Band Core in Germany, playing clarinet, he left behind his Beatles 45’s and mini record player. I discovered a new world while playing dolls by memorizing those melodious sounds, Paperback Writer, Elenor Rigby…Yesterday… Ethan, the square peg, as my Dad called him, loved Bob Dylan, and Cream. His bass guitar would reverberate through the entire house as he played along, equipped with harmonica, while I tried to top his volume two stories above playing my own record player. When I was five the record of Bye Bye Birdie, the movie, came out. My memory of our hi-fi was me sitting next to one speaker Indian style, rocking, memorizing and singing at what I thought was a very good impression of all the stars on the album. My parents loved music, so I was imprinted at a young age with some of the greats: Judy Garland, Tony Bennett, Louis Armstrong, Eydie Gourmet, and the musicals: Hello Dolly, Cabaret, Gypsy, Funny Girl, South Pacific, Take Me Along…. Eventually, I had my own record player, a little portable box hinged at the back opening to a world of one-dry-built-in-mono-speaker, but to me it was paradise! Finally I could shut myself in my own bedroom, a world away from irritating brothers! It was also sometimes a world into tawdry, decadent and colorful musical characters I was too naive to understand about, but they had the greatest musical numbers!!! Nightly I fell asleep to Gypsy or South Pacific, Oliver, or Funny Girl until I discovered ….the Carpenters, Queen, The Pointer Sisters and DISCO!!!! As nostalgic as this all may sound, no-one was happier than I to be introduced to cassette tapes, cd disks, downloading and streaming!!! My current life frustrations occur if a lack of wi-fi presents itself, so I can’t blast any number of genres I have grown up with or come to appreciate: big band, mellow jazz, musicals, swing, old country, dance, electro, blue grass, crooners of the 20’s, 30’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s, 70’s pop, disco, 80’s innovations, 90’s country, meditation, latin, french, sitar, prohibition, classical, opera, Motown, current pop and a little bit of Indy. My record needle pursuit is due to a portable 70’s era stereo my son Austin brought to the family lake house with an impressive dated record collection we no longer can listen to. I honestly never thought that in the twenty-first century (where cars should be flying and all homes should have push button every~thingys), I would still be hunting down record needles. Yet as frustrating as it is not getting a blue-tooth or wi-fi connection, I now find myself frustrated because I can’t listen to the scratch scratch scratch of one of those records. Alas, I‘m not defeated easily. Like the Vikings in the Immigrant Song, I will now “sweep with threshing oar” over the internet to find that vintage needle!! “We come from the land of ice and snow, from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow….ahhhhhhhh ah!”

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